Wanna Buy an Alien?

Eve Bunting, Author, Timothy Bush, Illustrator
Eve Bunting, Author, Timothy Bush, Illustrator Clarion Books $14 (96p) ISBN 978-0-395-69719-1
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Bunting's (Blackwater) latest tale sets up readers for an intergalactic adventure, yet never gets off the ground. Narrator Ben is intrigued but wary of his 11th birthday present from his best friend, Jason: a box containing a letter (dated two days in the future) from Iku, who cryptically thanks Ben for visiting his planet and invites him to return; a photo of Iku and Ben together; two veined, pyramid-shaped hot rocks; and an audiotape that contains a dialogue between Ben, whose voice is eerily distorted, and an individual with a voice ""like a shot in a deep tunnel,"" who bids the boy to ""guide us in."" Ben soon learns that the gift is a result of Jason's response to an ad, the headline of which posed the titular question. Ben, Jason and another friend follow Iku's instructions to meet, leading to a nighttime encounter of the dull kind: Iku's spaceship lands, the kids realize that he is not a friendly alien and Ben's dog saves the day by attacking the sinister being. Bunting's signature breezy, realistic dialogue can't make up for a plot that comes up short. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 7-10. (Apr.)
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